Encouraging vaccine hesitancy by “explaining” it

Yesterday we saw that libertarian economist Donald Boudreaux applauds Joe Rogan for uncritically “airing ideas” that undermine confidence in COVID vaccines.

Why does Boudreaux approve of this?  Since he is a libertarian, you might think it is because misinformation is liberty, or something.  But no.  He claims that vaccine skepticism is actually reasonable (my bold):

The bottom line is that vaccination against Covid is today insisted upon with the same fervor that religious zealots centuries ago exhibited when insisting upon the truths of their particular dogmas. Sensible people naturally are highly suspicious of such dogmatism and will resist becoming its victims.

If governments and public-health officials are looking for people to blame for vaccine hesitancy, they need only look in the mirror.

Got that?  The people responsible for vaccine hesitancy are the people advocating for vaccination, not the people spreading half-truths and lies.  How does Boudreaux reach this remarkable conclusion?

He lists several familiar complaints about government officials that, he claims, have undermined trust in both the officials themselves and the vaccines, such as:

  • Fauci’s “180 degree fliperoo” on masks
  • Unfair criticism of The Great Barrington Declaration
  • The hypocrisy of politicians violating restrictions
  • Disregarding the pre-pandemic public health consensus against lockdowns
  • Governments ignoring the age profile of COVID mortality in their push for vaccinations
  • Governments disparaging natural immunity
  • The unprecedented speed of vaccine development/approval

Now, these considerations may in fact lead some people to worry about the safety and efficacy of COVID vaccines, although Boudreaux produces no evidence for this, and my guess is that most people who are vaccine hesitant have not heard of most of these arguments.  But none of these arguments show that vaccines are unsafe or ineffective.  And as Boudreaux is no doubt aware, the vaccines are, in fact, safe and effective for the vast majority of people.

But Boudreaux can’t bring himself to address the underlying substantive issue.  He can’t bring himself to review the actual evidence, or even to say “Yes, I understand why you might be skeptical of Fauci or object to vaccine mandates, but the vaccines are highly effective and you should almost certainly get vaccinated.  If you have any doubts, speak to your doctor.”

Instead, Boudreaux presents considerations that might explain why some people are vaccine-hesitant and calls people who take these considerations to be decisive reasons “sensible” without addressing the merits of these arguments.  By doing this, he leaves his readers with the impression that these arguments may well be correct.